With the heating season around the corner, installers may find that their advice is in even further demand. Screwfix, the omnichannel retailer, is dedicated to supporting installers with various products to help their customers use less energy, control their energy, and prevent heat loss or wasted energy in their homes.
Here, previous finalists from Screwfix Top Tradesperson give their expert advice and their views on the best products currently available on the market, no matter the budget.
Controlling energy use
While installers are vital in providing energy efficiency for their customers with large jobs, such as major renovations or upgrading heating systems, small changes can also make a big difference.
Screwfix Top Tradesperson 2022 finalist and qualified electrician Jamie Webber said: “Whilst solar PV and battery storage are the future, I believe that small changes are a great way for customers to improve energy efficiency in the short-term. Products that work with smart home devices, such as Alexa and Google Home, can give more control over energy use, are worth investing in, and they don’t have to be expensive.
“Products that allow you to identify the amount of energy a customer’s electrical devices use and, importantly, waste, also provide a great starting point for where further control is required. For my customers, I would recommend installing a plug-in monitor that assesses exactly how many watts each item uses, even when it’s on standby. This is also helpful in assessing where smart plugs are most needed.”
The term ‘vampire devices’ has been coined most recently to refer to those electrical devices that drain power when left on standby or when they aren’t in use. An energy usage monitor, such as the Energenie energy-saving power meter socket, is a simple ‘plug and play’ device which allows you to check most household appliances for energy usage, cumulative electricity usage and cost of use. Jamie recommends checking the readings when the appliance is on and when it’s on standby to understand which devices are wasting the most energy.
Customers could spend up to £65 a year, powering appliances left on and on standby. Using a smart plug or socket to assist you with switching off unused appliances will not only help reduce emissions but could also help drive down energy costs.
Jamie adds: “Smart plugs allow the customer to programme exactly when they need certain devices to turn on and off. They work particularly well with devices where the switch is difficult to reach to turn on and off manually yet are wasting energy by being left on standby.”
Smart plugs and sockets use a small amount of electricity to manage the appliance itself. Hive’s offering is highly rated, with the smart plug and hub bundle allowing customers to set up to 6-time slots a day for turning appliances on and off. Meanwhile, TCP smart plugs are also highly rated, great for hard-to-reach devices, and more affordable at under £20 per plug.
Focusing on heating
Individual energy savings are dependent upon existing controls and the building itself. Still, where people can or need to change their boiler, their heating controls or even the radiator valves, a range of options can be suggested to suit differing budgets.
Screwfix Top Tradesperson 2022 finalist and qualified plumber Ian Smith says: “In the plumbing and heating sector, there is a lot of talk about the future of heat – from heat pumps to hydrogen. However, when I’m out visiting customers there are still many households that are running on older heating systems that are wasting energy and driving up their bills.
“Some homes will still have old, G-rated boilers which are only 60% efficient, which means 40% of the gas used is wasted. Newer boilers that are A-rated are around 92% efficient, and many of the newer models on the market are hydrogen-ready making them future-proofed if the UK does decide to convert mains gas into hydrogen in the future.
Clean heating systems
“Keeping the heating system clean is also important, and this is often overlooked as a way to save energy. If you have ever bled a radiator and dirty, black water has appeared, then your heating system is probably corrupted by sludge known as iron oxide or magnetite. This not only corrodes the boiler, which can lead to breakdowns, but also impacts the overall efficiency of the central heating system. Sludge is ten times heavier than water and, therefore, takes ten times longer to heat up – making a system work unnecessarily hard to heat up your home. Sludge in the system also leads to cold spots on radiators, making rooms feel colder and taking longer to get warm.
“For my customers, if I detect sludge in their system during a service or a call-out, I would advise and quote for remedial work, which would include flushing out the system with a special chemical to get rid of the sludge and installing a magnetic filter; this captures the magnetite particles before they settle in the system and cause further problems. The filter can then be cleaned every 12 months or so to ensure the system is running efficiently.”
If you are unsure whether a full system flush is required during a customer visit – as only the most clogged systems will be leaking black water – then a water testing kit will show you exactly what’s going on inside the system. In recent times, water test kits have improved significantly, so that installers can now get instant results for corrosion, PH levels and inhibitors on-site, allowing them to make remedial work recommendations in the same visit.
Through his plumbing and heating business, IJS Trade Services, Ian also advises customers on the small changes they can make to help reduce energy costs. He says: “Simply turning a thermostat down by one degree can reduce heating bills, and adjusting radiator valves in rooms which aren’t used as often, such as spare bedrooms, will make a big difference too.”
Customers tend to see the boiler as the heat provider and can easily overlook radiator valves’ impact on the heating system and its efficiency. Following Ian’s advice, look out for customers with manual radiator valves – as simply swapping these for thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) will ensure that each room is maintained at a comfortable temperature, to help avoid overheating in rooms that will be a waste of energy.
Millions of properties across the UK are still expected to have inadequate controls for their heating system. The result is that the boiler is either on or off, pumping out heat long after the room reaches the right temperature. Smart heating controls are revolutionising the way homeowners interact with their heating systems, with significant savings to be made.
Jamie’s business Smart Ohm, has a strong focus on energy efficiency. He says: “For me, smart thermostats are invaluable in terms of improving efficiency and helping to reduce energy bills. They can allow you to effectively create different ‘zones’ in the customer’s home, where the temperature comes on at different times. You can also set different minimum and maximum temperatures in each of these zones, which work around the customer’s lifestyle – for example, making rooms such as bedrooms and bathrooms a little cooler and living rooms cosier.”
A brighter future
Another simple switch for customers to help save costs, whilst reducing our impact on the planet, is through upgraded lighting. The UK began phasing out the sale of higher-energy halogen lightbulbs in 2018. In 2021, new legislation meant retailers could no longer sell halogen bulbs for general household use. This year, fluorescent lamps are the next lighting product to be phased out and will cease to be manufactured from September 2023.
Jamie concluded: “We still see customers using older-style bulbs. When fluorescent lamps first came on the market, they were much more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. However, they are now being phased out, and for customers looking to save energy, I would always recommend switching to LED bulbs. LED bulbs use less energy than fluorescent bulbs and last longer, too.”
LED bulbs are up to 80% more efficient than fluorescent bulbs and convert 95% of their energy into light with only 5% is wasted as heat. As a result, LED bulbs can use a much lower wattage but still provide a strong and consistent output – around 800 lumens using just 10 watts.
By simply replacing old bulbs with energy efficient LEDs, you could save your customers around £65 a year on electricity bills, and with over 250 different LED bulbs to choose from Screwfix, even the fussiest of clients will be able to make the switch!
To find out more about Screwfix’s range of energy saving products, please visit https://www.screwfix.com/landingpage/energy-saving.